The Anti-Terrorism Squad had chargesheeted nine Muslims for the blasts at two mosques that left 31 dead and more than 100 injured. Disclosures by Swami Aseemanand later revealed the attack to be the handiwork of right-wing Hindu groups.
Ahmed, who was made approver by the ATS but retracted his statement later, has told the NIA that he was “detained by the police for three days and pressured to identify photographs of a few persons shown to him”.
Another “suspect” named by the ATS in the case, Mohammad Ali, was found to have been present at the ATS office in Kurla in Mumbai on the day of the Malegaon blasts. Ali had been under probe by the ATS in connection with the July 2006 Mumbai train serial blasts.
The NIA has conveyed to the union home ministry that the alleged call intercepted between Ahmed and “suspect” Zahid Abdul Majid, also arrested by the ATS, was also made at the behest of the police. Majid had been described by the ATS as one of those who planted the bombs at the mosques. In the call, ‘Majid’ is heard using “abusive language”.
“The evidence against Majid is ‘inconclusive’... It has also been learnt that Majid was organising a cultural programme at a madrasa in Yevatmal on the day of the incident,” an official in the ministry revealed.
The case had been transferred to the CBI in 2011 and later to the NIA, which started re-investigation based on Aseemanand’s testimony. Following this, seven of the nine accused were granted bail last year.
Sources in the Home Ministry said a “key witness” cited by the ATS, Atif, is yet to be traced. An employee of Shabbir Batterywala (another “accused” named by the ATS), Atif was made a witness and his statement recorded before a magistrate. He has been untraceable since January 2007. A team of police officials that visited his native place in Allahabad drew a blank.
The NIA investigation has reportedly established that Batterywala was also made an accused by the ATS on “flimsy” grounds after the discovery of a fake bomb on September 13, 2006, five days after the blasts. The ATS had then claimed that the ‘soil sample’ of the fake bomb matched the soil samples collected from Batterywala’s godown.
The witnesses cited by the ATS during the seizure of the soil sample denied they had ever been examined by the police.
Investigators believe Lt Col Prasad Purohit, now under arrest for the Malegaon 2008 blast, had also tried to mislead investigating agencies. As military intelligence officer in October 2006, Purohit, then posted at Nashik, had filed a report saying SIMI activist Noorulhuda Doha was involved in the 2006 mosque blasts. Doha was arrested by the ATS in 2006 and was among those released on bail last year.
“From the examination of the commanding officer of Purohit at Southern Command, it was found that Purohit tried to mislead the investigating agencies,” said the ministry official.